Kakinada: More than one lakh families of temple priests (archakas) in the state are eking out a livelihood, with the temples not getting enough revenue and the priests not getting a remunerative salary.
Though the Supreme Court gave a clear verdict bringing the priests under Pay Revision Scale, without showing any discrimination, the government was not able to implement it due to various reasons.
These families are Below the Poverty Line and most of the priests have no other sources of income. They are not able to educate their children in a better way and are not able to get alternative livelihood sources as their main intention is serving the God or Goddess and to protect the temples and tradition.
They are afraid to take up any other job, as the temples may get closed down and they wish to serve the God. But, they are now living in utter poverty.
According to sources, the downfall of temples and priests began since 1987 when the then Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao abolished the shares in money and other things which used to be given by the devotees.
After a long struggle, the Supreme Court gave a verdict that if the government wants to abolish the sh-ares to the priests, they should be given salaries as per the Pay Revision Scales on the lines of junior assistant (archakas), senior assistant (second archakas) and superintendent scale (main priest) in B and C grade temples and assistant commissioner, deputy commissioner and regional joint commissio-ner scales to the archakas for first and second categories and main priests respectively in ‘A’ Grade temples.
The government immediately abolished the shares, but did not implement pay scale for the priests. Later, the issues were reviewed by the several committees and discussions were held.
The temples were divided into three grades: C Grade (Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh revenue per annum), B Grade (Rs 3 lakh to Rs 25 lakh) and A Grade (`25 lakh and above). But, the government did not pay the scales to C grade temple priests and they lost their traditional shares.
“We have been demanding for the implementation of pay scales with hereditary rights. If a priest wants to perform puja to a God at a temple, the entire family members and if necessary, his relatives should also assist him from cleaning to completing the customs and traditions in a day. If the government cancels the hereditary rights, the ent-ire family would be affected,” AP State Archaka Samakhya organising secretary Peddireddy Rambabu said.
He said that if the priests want to leave the temple, the temples may be closed and then it would pose threat to Hindu tradition.
Samakhya state working president Sree Kantham Nandeeswar said the state government issued a GO by appointing a committee for sorting out the issues and the committee should submit its report as early as possible without making any delay as the priests are struggling for livelihood.
Brides not willing to marry archaka boys
Due to miserable lives of archaka families and the state government’s discrimination against them, many families are not coming forward to give their daughters in marriage to priests.
Many men are not able to get marriages even when they cross 40 years due to non-acceptability to the priest profession.
The priest families said that the girls prefer good academic qualifications or software engineers.
“Generally, we don’t want to change our sub-sect for marriage matters. But, we are now getting ready for this to allow marriages in families. But even then, girls are not willing to marry a priest,” said a priest.
Archaka Samakhya state working president Sreekantham Nandeeswar said that even when a youth studies Vedic Sciences and takes up the job of a Professor with high salary in the US or abroad, girls have not shown interest.
He said that many parents of boys are getting ready to give dowry to the girl’s families but in vain. The main reason is the government not doing justice to the priests and not implementing service rules....